New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) A political push and removal of barriers can see trade between India and Pakistan boom, experts maintain even as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari made a whistle stop visit to India Sunday.
Over the past year, the experts added, the two sides have been working hard to normalise trade relations, which is expected to get a further push with the opening of a new integrated check post along the Attari-Wagah border.
The new check-post is expected to be opened this month.
Vikramjit Singh Sahney, president of Saarc Chamber said normalization of diplomatic ties will also boost overall regional trade and lead to greater economic integration of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) grouping.
"Once Pakistan grants most-favoured nation status to India, it will pave the way for full implementation of the Saarc Trade Area," Sahney told IANS. India had extended most-favoured nation status to Pakistan in 1996.
Formal trade between India and Pakistan was estimated at $2.7 billion in 2010-11. But routed through third countries like the UAE, this trade is estimated at $10 billion. The balance is also heavily in favour of India with its exports at $2.3 billion.
The two countries target to increase formal trade to over $6 billion by 2014.
Trade and commercial establishments on either side now expressed satisfaction that things are moving in the right direction, particularly so after Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma led the largest ever business delegation to Pakistan in February.
Sharma was, in fact, the first Indian trade minister to visit Pakistan in over three decades and was accompanied by the chief executives of over 100 companies, who went to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Soon after, the Pakistan government notified the much-awaited negative list for trade with India, substantially increasing the number of items that can be imported from or exported to the neighbouring country.
Now over 7,000 items can be traded between the two countries. Earlier, Pakistan used to limit its imports from India to less than 2,000 items, by putting them under a positive list.
Now Pakistan has identified a list of some 1,200 items which it does not want to import from India. It means apart of the items listed in the negative list, everything can be traded between the two countries.
Pakistan has also agreed to remove the negative list by the end of 2012, paving the way for granting the much-awaited most-favoured nation status to India.
Keeping the momentum going, Pakistan Trade Minister Mohammad Amin Fahim is also visiting New Delhi this week to meet with Minister Sharma, even as Delhi will play host to a an exhibition later this week in which over 100 Pakistani lifestyle firms are participating.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)
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